Travel can sometimes arise within the context of employment as a designer. We reached out to François Nguyen, a creative director at frog’s San Francisco studio who has travelled abroad for projects over the course of his seven years with the company. He tells us about his time in China and the importance of travel as a source of renewed inspiration.

Q: How did the idea of a secondment/working on a project abroad come up? Was this something you were actively looking for, or was it proposed by frog?

A: This was project related work, although I am always open to opportunities for travel and working abroad.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about secondments and/or working on projects abroad at frog? 

A: There are opportunities to work all over the world for research related projects, and our global studios allow us to operate out of international locations throughout Europe and Asia. This work is typically project based—we often do cross studio collaborations depending on the client needs.

Q: Where were you located, and for how long? What was the project about?

A: I worked in China for about 2.5 months, traveling through six different locations, while conducting ethnographic research. I was based in our Shanghai studio while working on the project, which required us to design a computer display specifically for the Chinese market.

Q: What was the most memorable part of this experience for you? 

A: The most memorable part was seeing the terra cotta warriors in Xi’an.


Anything that replenishes creative energy is good for the designer. Travel and seeing the world through different cultures and perspectives can only broaden and deepen the creative reservoir.

Q: What did you learn from the experience professionally? Has it affected the way you approach your job as an industrial designer?

A: My experience in research grew substantially. I learned how to modify and adjust a research plan in the field in order to get the kind of data we needed. I learned how to see the deeper meanings behind peoples’ words or actions, how to identify the story behind the story, and how to choose the appropriate design solutions based on these insights.

Q: Industrial design is a creative profession. In your opinion, how beneficial is travel in renewing sources of inspiration?

Anything that replenishes creative energy is good for the designer. Travel and seeing the world through different cultures and perspectives can only broaden and deepen the creative reservoir.

Q: Can you tell me about a local design that really impressed you during your time away?

A: The Great Wall is an incredible structure to witness! Everyone should see it and walk it in their lifetime.

Q: What designs were you glad to see again upon your return?

A: The Golden Gate Bridge; she’s a beauty.

Q: What would you say to young designers who are considering work abroad, whether through secondments or volunteer opportunities?

A: Do it. Don’t give it a second thought. You’ll be so glad you did.


About François Nguyen
François is currently a creative director at frog’s San Francisco studio. He has a diverse range of industrial design experience with an emphasis on consumer audio products. His career began over a decade ago at Pentagram where he worked with clients such as Microsoft, Coca-Cola and Dell. Later, he joined ammunition where he was the lead designer for the original  “Beats Studio” headphones for Dr. Dre, a design that would give rise to the world’s most widely recognized audio brand.

As a creative lead at frog, François is responsible for ensuring high standards of design excellence, overseeing the vision of a projects, managing the team, pursuing new business, managing client relationships and most importantly, continuing to grow by actively listening and learning. His work continually strives to be emotionally and intellectually engaging through balancing the use of materials, form, finish, poetry and metaphor.

His work has been featured in such prominent publications as RollingStone, The New Yorker and FastCompany. When he is not designing, François is a performing / recording musician and has released two albums of original compositions.